FC Dnipro are a poor partner in Ukrainian football compared to the powerhouses of Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk. As Euro 2012 approaches the city of Dnipropetrovsk - like Krakow in Poland - finds itself on the fringes of the showcase UEFA Euro 2012 event. As rival Ukrainian cities such as Lviv and Kharkiv get set to host visitors from around Europe so Dnipro has no role to play. Whilst Krakow gets to host the English national team and the historical centre of Krakow gets to host many fans passing through on route to venues so its unlikely Dnipropetrovsk will get anything in the way of tourism.
FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk are now coached by former Seville and Spurs head coach Juande Ramos but he has so far been unable to replicate the cup success he enjoyed with Spurs and Sevilla at his Ukrainian side. In the current Ukrainian Premier League (Premyer Liha) season Dnipro look on course to achieve a Europa League qualifying spot due to occupying 4thposition. Despite this lofty position they are some way off the giants of Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk who occupy the top two places. Dnipro are also a massive 16 points off of third placed Metalist Kharkiv.
The new Dnipro Stadium – where FC Dnipro moved from its previous Meteor Stadium in 2008 - is very typical of the ‘new wave’ of stadium renovation and creation that is evident throughout Ukraine. Mostly the development was related to the potential staging of the flagship ‘UEFA 2012 European Championships’ tournament. New found wealth in Ukrainian football also means that the game in the Ukraine has grown to rival its Russian neighbour. Stadiums are modern, TV coverage is widespread and former legends have returned home to play in the league. Andrei Shevchenko is a huge presence in the league.
Given that the city of Dnipropetrovsk was not chosen as a host venue the new stadium development is indicative of the ambitions of FC Dnipro to achieve Champions League football and challenge the more successful Shakhtar and traditional successful Dynamo Kiev sides. Whether this can be done is a different matter and the results experienced by Dnipro in Europe suggest otherwise. Whilst the likes of Karpaty Lviv and Metallist Kharkiv have progressed into the later stages of the Europa League so FC Dnipro have failed to make any sort of presence. Likewise both Dynamo and Shahktar are huge brands in Ukraine that Dnipro will almost certainly find almost impossible to dislodge.
if you watched the Ukraine v England qualification match for FIFA WC 2010 they you will have seen that it is a ground that is capable of creating a good atmosphere. Small and compact with less than 40,000 seats the stands are closer to the pitch than at the former Meteor ground. FC Dnipro's resident Ultras grouping opened the proceedings to the match as the teams emerged onto the field. A well organised home ‘Tifo’ coloured card display greeted the two teams. With few travelling fans in attendance the entire first half atmosphere was coming from the home fans in the nearly full stadium.
It was not until just before half time that the home side attained the lead and gave the fans a chance to really celebrate thanks to a goal from experienced Ukrainian International Ruslan Rotan. Although FC Zorya scored through Ilya Galyuza further goals for Dnipro came due to an own goal (o.g.) from Nikola Ignjatijevic and additional time goal from substitute Denis Oliynyk.
Perhaps the oddest part of the occasion was a massive music concert stage which appeared in the middle of the home stand throughout the match. After discussions with a few home fans it was discovered that the creation was in place to allow a post-match concert for the Ukrainian PrivatBank to take place. The match was taking place on the 20th anniversary of the Dnipro club owner's ‘Ihor Kolomoyskyis’ bank which is of course Privatbank. After the match, workers from PrivatBank got to watch a free concert inside the stadium.
In the Ukraine some things are just done that little bit differently.
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 3 v FC Zorya Luhansk 1
Location: Ukraine / Dnipropetrovs'k / Dnipro Stadium / Ukrainian Premier League
Date: 24th March 2012